9 Simple Tips to Communicate with the Deaf

The Deaf cannot communicate with others the way we do. Is that the only reason we call them disabled? If that’s the only reason, then they are not disabled. The deaf have a highly evolved system of communication between them. With a little effort, we can also learn to communicate with them. It is our moral responsibility to ensure that they are part of our system. Follow the 9 simple tips to communicate with the deaf and break the barriers.

Sign language uses hands to convey the words or a sentence. Hence for a deaf person signs are the words which they read with their eyes.


What is Sign Language?

The deaf or the Hearing Impaired have their own language. It’s known as Sign Language. Sign language makes use of visual actions to convey messages. Sign language is not limited to use of hands. Facial expressions, body movements and gestures also play an important role.

How Many Languages do we Have in the World?

According to Ethnologue, the Encyclopedia of languages, there are 7105 known living languages. How many do you speak? Many people speak just one language. The deaf also speak one language, the sign language.

How do the Deaf Communicate?

The Hearing Impaired or the HOH (Hard of Hearing) predominantly use the sign language. Their other senses are highly developed. They are keen observers and are very good at lip reading. They are also sharp at reading facial expressions and interpreting body language.

How Should a Normal Person Communicate With the Deaf?

If we are aware that the other person has a Hearing loss we can make things easier for them. Our interaction will be beneficial to them if we follow these simple rules.

The 9 Simple Tips to Communicate with the deaf

Ideal distance while talking to the deaf blog image
Ideal distance while talking to the deaf
  1. The Hearing Impaired rely heavily on Lip Reading. We should take care that they have a clear view of our lips. Keep a distance of not more than 1 to 1.2 meters.
  2. Do not cover your mouth. Ensure that you are not standing in the shadow. They should have a clear view of your lip movement.
  3. Speak in a normal voice, do NOT SHOUT. The person may be suffering from a Profound hearing loss or other Types of Hearing Loss. In this case, he or she may request you to speak a little louder. Make sure that you are forming the words clearly with your lips.
  4. Look at the person straight in the eyes. Your eye moments and facial expressions will help them understand you better.
  5. You may be unable to convey your message in the first attempt. Change your expressions or hand movements and try again. Make use of your hands, it will help them understand your point. Do not hesitate to point at some object in the room to convey your message. For example, point at the chair if you want them to sit down.
  6. If you are having trouble getting your point across, reach for a paper and pen to write down.
  7. If you are talking to more than one person, look at other persons also in turns.
  8. If you are unable to get your point across, do not close the topic in frustration. It may offend them. Use other actions to restart your conversation.
  9. Tap their shoulder lightly if you happen to be behind them.

Is Sign Language Universal?

It is surprising to know that there are probably 300 sign languages.  There may be a slight difference between some. Something similar to different dialects in a language.

I Love You in Sign Language blog image
I Love You in Sign Language

Different Countries having their own spoken language. The deaf in all Countries also have their local sign Language.

Countries under American educational influence use the American Sign Language or ASL. Similarly, Britain uses BSL or British Sign Language.

Which Sign Language does India Follow?

India has its own sign language known as ISL or the Indian Sign Language. In India, we have the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre. ISLRTC operates under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

Objectives of Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre

  1. To develop manpower for using Indian Sign Language (ISL). Teaching and conducting research in ISL, including bilingualism.
  2. To promote the use of Indian Sign Language as a mode of education for deaf students. Promotion takes place at primary, secondary and higher education levels.
  3. ISLRTC conducts research through collaboration with universities and other educational institutions. It also creates linguistic records and analyses of the Indian Sign Language. Including the creation of Indian Sign Language corpus (Vocabulary).
  4. To orient and train various groups, i.e. Govt. officials, teachers, professionals and community leaders. The ISLT promotes public training for understanding and using Indian Sign Language.
  5. It collaborates with deaf organizations and other institutions in the field of disability. To promote and propagate Indian Sign Language.
  6. To collect information relating to Sign Language used in other parts of the world. This input helps to upgrade the Indian Sign Language.

Indian Government Support for the Deaf

In a first by any State Government. The Maharashtra Government has presented its 2018 State Budget in sign language. This initiative was in association with Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Deafblind, Mumbai.

The Republic Day parade in 2014 and the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was telecast in sign language. Doordarshan also carried a sign language feed of the Independence Day In 2016 on all its regional channels.

Our Responsibilities Towards the Deaf

The Hearing Impaired or the Deaf are unable to speak the way we do. It is our duty to learn to communicate with them. We should make the workplaces comfortable for them. This is an era of digital communication. It is very simple to issue instructions by Emails and text messaging. Handwritten sticky notes are one method to pass on messages. These small actions will make them feel involved. Chances are that they will be loyal and contribute more than any able employee.

In case of a need for a sign language interpreter. Please go to our Helpline and mention your contact details and the location.